California 2024 Application Strategy Overview
By Rodger Holscher
With 2023 ending, it is time to start thinking about your 2024 Big Game Applications. California is one of the later draws in the country so most people will know how their applications are shaking out by then. June 2 is the deadline for the Big Game Draw in California. With non-resident tags getting harder to get throughout the West, California holds some options that are often overlooked.
For non-residents, California doesn’t hold the possibilities of other western states. Non-residents don’t have much of a shot for anything but deer. The State of California skews the tags massively in resident’s favor for species like elk, pronghorn and bighorn sheep. Non-residents can still get two deer tags. California’s season dates can help extend your fall and give you more opportunity.
Residents should pay close attention to the 2023 numbers when they are released for the elk draw. In 2023, California added many new elk tags and reworked several of the elk hunting zones. The point creep in California is a real problem. It might be easier to go for the elk tag you have always wanted, with the new tags/hunt areas taking pressure off other zones.
The bighorn sheep numbers have struggled in some areas in recent years. If you are looking for a bighorn sheep tag, pay attention to the animal counts. The number of mature rams in each herd determines the number of tags available.
Pronghorn have not been able to increase population in the past several years. This hasn’t hurt the number of B&C bucks that come out of the northern California units. Some of the less sought-after units can still hold big bucks even with the lower numbers.
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